Once Upon a Time: An Interview with C. L. McCollum

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I’m so excited about my guest on The Belle today.  Author and editor C. L. McCollum is going to be talking about her newest endeavor:  Once Upon a Time, A Cliches for a Cause Anthology to benefit RAINN.

Introduce yourself and tell us a little about why you’re visiting the blog today. 

Hiya! I’m Caitlan aka C.L. McCollum (@C_L_McCollum on Twitter), and I am one of the co-editors and authors for the Clichés for a Cause anthology series. The newest book in the series, ONCE UPON A TIME, was just released on June 19th, and Lexxx has been gracious enough to offer to interview me about the book!

As far as me, I’m a 30-something Texas girl currently living in Austin. I’m a fan of SFF and most of my work tends to fall into that genre with occasional dabbling into magical realism. I also am most comfortable writing in the YA and NA categories. Those age groups just seem to be where my writing fits best.

 

 What is the “Clichés for a Cause” project?

The Clichés for a Cause project is a series of anthologies sponsored by Herding Cats Press with the proceeds from each book in the series going to a different charity. The first book was the brainchild of Mitchell Lehnert, another member of our writing group, but it’s since grown into a full series. There are only two books so far, but we hope to continue to add installments as time goes on.

 

 How did Herding Cats Creative Writing become involved with RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) and why did you choose this particular charity?

We aren’t directly involved/affiliated with www.rainn.org – it was chosen simply because it’s a charity that is close to our hearts. Of the contributors, there are more than one of us who have personally experienced abuse or have family and loved ones who have. I personally hadn’t known RAINN existed during the abusive relationship I was in several years ago, but knowing that there was an organization to help people find their way out of those situations would have been a huge aid at the time. Now, I like to hope that our contributing of the proceeds of this anthology, no matter how much those proceeds actually end up being, might help RAINN to keep providing that aid to those who need it.

 

 Tell us a little about your process as editor of a large anthology like this.

We actually had four editors working together on this anthology: myself and August Clearwing as lead editors, and two associate editors, Gerald Sallier and Elaine Titus who helped with the content/copyediting tasks. We actually had several group sessions where we all signed into the same google doc and all four of us could confer/add comments/point out sections of the story we had questions about. It definitely helped to have four sets of eyes on each story; it made me a lot more confident that we didn’t miss major issues/errors since each of us had completely different grammar/content things that we were really good at catching. We also did several rounds of editing, focusing first on content and then on copyedits, which I think worked well for us. It was still a learning experience, though, so hopefully we’ll be even more thorough and efficient with the next book in the series.

 

 What can readers expect from Once Upon a Time?    

ONCE UPON A TIME contains 15 illustrated re-told fairy tales from 29 different authors and artists. The only rule we gave our authors was that their story must start with the words “Once upon a time…” Beyond that, they could go wild. We have everything from steampunk to sci-fi to contemporary to epic fantasy to satire, and the illustrations from our artists are just as diverse. I really can’t pick a favorite story or image frankly (though admittedly I’m partial to the illustrations for my stories LOL).

 

 Once Upon a Time is a follow up to last year’s It Was a Dark and Stormy Night.  What did you learn about producing an anthology from that experience?

What didn’t we learn from IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT? LOL We’re all incredibly proud of the fact that we got it put together and finished, but there were quite a few hiccups and mistakes along the way. We also definitely got overwhelmed with the sheer amount of things we needed to accomplish. I feel like we had a much better idea of the overall work that goes into putting an anthology together with ONCE UPON A TIME. Even little things like having group editing days planned and scheduled before the actual story due date were a huge help to our sanity.

We learned things from this anthology, too, honestly. I don’t think we’re ever going to have an anthology where we don’t look back and think “OK we could have done that thing better – let’s make a note for the next one.”

 Art seems to be a big part of these anthologies.  Beautiful, original illustrations are featured with each story.  How did you go about bringing together such great visual artists to participate in this project?

Honestly most of it was long-term networking that ended up having amazing side effects. A couple of the artists from DARK & STORMY were friends I’d known for years either in real life or online. When the time came to put together a pool of artists for ONCE UPON A TIME, one of those original artists, Angela Sasser (www.angelasasser.com), asked if she could mention the anthology to a small Facebook group she was part of. We said sure, and the next thing I knew, I had 12 emails in like 15 minutes. I heard over and over again that everyone was 1) a fan of fairy tales and 2) thrilled to get to be involved with a project earning money for RAINN.

It was incredibly humbling to have that kind of support from strangers just rolling in that way. The authors were all at least known to one or more of the Herding Cats folks so no one was a complete unknown, but most of the artists were people I’d never worked or talked with before. With several of them, I’d seen their art before and was a fan, but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable approaching them regarding the anthology. So having Angela step in was just a huge part of how incredible the anthology turned out. She wasn’t able to contribute art to this book which we were all bummed about, but I can’t wait to get to collaborate with her on the next book. So yeah, so, so much thanks to her for that!

 

 Once Upon a Time is available right now!  Tell us where we can get it!!

The physical copy of the anthology is currently available on Amazon here:  http://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-Time-Charity-Anthology/dp/1514326493/  The eBook will be released within the next week. For more information about Book I: IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT or upcoming anthologies in the Clichés for a Cause series, please visit www.herdcatspress.com or our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HerdingCatsPress. Herding Cats Press is also on Twitter: @herdcatspress

Amazon Reviews: Proceed With Caution

beautykingdomGood morning, Dear Readers!  It’s a beautiful day here in sunny South Carolina.  I do hope it’s sunny and warm where you are.  I thought I’d begin this latest rant (yes, brace yourself.  it’s going to be a rant.) with an exclamation of how excited I am to see the newest chapter in A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice for those that might not know)’s Beauty series.  If you know anything about me at all you know that part of the reason I do what I do is because of the original Beauty trilogy (don’t worry, I’m going to put a link up later so you can get them for yourself). If you’ve read my novel Beast of Burden, you probably recognize that I was very much influenced by Rice.

I read the original Beauty Trilogy for the first time at probably twelve or thirteen years old.  I smuggled them out of my sister’s room (sorry, Lucy Blue) and read all three in a weekend.  They opened my eyes to a world of not just kinky sex (I already had a rudimentary knowledge of sexy stuff at that point) but to a world where the act of reading was actually a sensual experience.  With every word in those books I was shocked, delighted, aroused and utterly intoxicated.  By words.  The descriptions of the people and places and experiences are so visceral and those images have stayed with me all these years.  I owe Ms. Rice a tremendous debt of gratitude.  She made me a reader, a writer and a woman in that single weekend with just under a thousand pages of text.  Since then I’ve read those books all the way through at least a dozen times.  I had to purchase a new set a few years ago because the ones I had were missing pages and the covers were torn.  I consider them to be my personal reference.  When I’m writing an erotic book and I get lost, I read Beauty’s Punishment (my favorite of the trilogy) so that I can remember that erotic stories are not just about sex, but about the people and the story.  The words. Nowhere in those books does anyone talk about dripping wet love holes. Nor does the dialogue make you cringe.  (“I fuck.  Hard.”  What?!!)  The world in which Beauty and her companions exist is a world where sexual slavery is not only accepted, but longed for.  It’s a symbol of status.  Therefore, there are no silly contracts or instructions on how to properly flog your sub. Rice has no interest writing a BDSM instruction manual or a treatise on how to properly engage in an abusive relationship.  It’s a FANTASY.  It seems with all the erotic fiction out there, we’ve forgotten that these are FANTASIES that are supposed to entertain and titillate.  Not inspire a lifestyle.  But I digress…

Now comes the rant.

I was reading the Amazon reviews of the new book, Beauty’s Kingdom, this morning when I got to work.  I plan to go and get my copy this weekend, but I was curious as to what others were saying.  They were all pretty positive, but I’m having a hard time believing any of them.  NONE of the reviewers on that first page had ever read the first books.  NONE.  One of them claimed that “The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty” came out in 1999.  Another said that she hadn’t read the originals because she didn’t think that they would be her cup of tea, but she got an ARC of this and thought what the hell. I get the distinct impression that all of these folks picked it up and thought, “I wonder if this is as good as 50 Shades?”  Which just cuts me to the core for a number of reasons that I’m sure you can guess based on past posts.  The reason why this is annoying to me is because what I really want to know is— will Beauty’s Kingdom stand up alongside the original trilogy?  Is it edgy and sexy and dripping with raw sensuality like the originals?  None of these folks who I’m sure are very intelligent people could tell me because they hadn’t done their research.  And if they’re getting ARCs, then they aren’t just the “average reader” anymore.  They’re a pro reviewer, for lack of a better term.  The “average reader” is looking to them for guidance before they spend the money.  They have a responsibility, in my opinion.  It would be like Roger Ebert reviewing Star Wars after only having watched the last fifteen minutes.

At any rate, despite the purist rage, I’m really excited to get my copy of Beauty’s Kingdom in a couple of days.  I’ll be sure to post my review here when I’m done AND on Amazon.  If for no other reason, then I believe in supporting authors– even superstars like Anne Rice.  And I wouldn’t be a true indie author if I didn’t remind you…

HEY!  If you like erotic retellings of fairy tales, try Beast of Burden by Alexandra Christian!  Don’t believe me?  Try an excerpt…

***********

His words were cut short by another booming of thunder so loud it echoed off the stone walls, throwing the oil lamp tobeastofburden_original the floor at his feet. Without care for who he was or how he frightened her, Sascha leapt from the bed and threw herself into his arms. At first he was paralyzed with shock, having no idea how to react to this sudden change. After a few moments of her sobbing into his shoulder, he found himself wrapping his arms around her protectively.

“It’s alright,” he soothed. “You’re safe.”

“No I’m not,” she cried. “I’m as unsafe as any one girl could possibly be. Locked up in this castle without a soul that I know. A slave that has no idea what to do or say!” She burst into another torrent of sobs that left her shuddering against him. In a swift movement, he lifted her into his arms and carried her to the chaise by the fire.

The embers had burned low, but still offered some illumination and warmth. He cradled her body against his, tucking her head under his chin. “You’ve nothing to fear, little one,” he purred into her ear softly. “No harm will come to you here.”

“I wish I could believe you, My Lord,” she sniffled.

“Why can’t you?”

She hesitated, the words catching in her throat. How could she tell him how he frightened her? How the slightest glance from him brought terror and arousal in one crushing wave. It was too humiliating and shameful to admit. “I just…I mean…you…”

“Are you afraid of me, Sascha?” He asked this question so matter-of-factly that she nodded before she could stop herself. She blushed deeply and he chuckled. “Put your mind at ease, girl. I promise that it’s not my intention to hurt you.”

They sat on the chaise for several minutes, neither one speaking. The only sounds were the crackling of the fire and the storm raging beyond the walls. Finally, Sascha stared up at her new Master and realized the absurdity of their situation. “My Lord?”

“Cianan.”

“What?” She looked up at him, clearly confused.

“My name. Cianan. Anyone who awakens me in the middle of the night should call me by my given name.” He smiled warmly then tensed again. “But only here.”

Sascha nodded. “Cianan,” she began, her voice still trembling. “Why are you suddenly being so kind to me?”

“You thought me unkind before?” She could only stare at him. “Perhaps I can be a little rough around the edges,” he admitted. “I never meant to be unkind. I beg your pardon if it seemed so.” She seemed to accept this and their silence resumed. She relaxed into his embrace and he sighed, relieved she wasn’t going to run. He inhaled deeply, taking in the scent of her, committing it to memory. Every breath made him believe in her more and more. She was his mate and he would do everything he could to convince her of that fact. “I can feel more questions burning on your tongue, little one.”

Sascha blushed again. “Well…I was wondering…the library…”

“What about it?” His jaw tensed.

“Might I borrow a book? I like to read,” she asked nervously. She kept her eyes trained on the flames before her, not wanting to see any anger on his face. “And I noticed you had a beautiful library.”

“As I’ve told you, you may go anywhere within the castle grounds you like…”

“Except for the cellar,” she finished. “But why not there?” This was the real question that burned on her tongue. The greatest mystery that had grown in her mind.

“It is none of your affair,” he answered stiffly, moving her carefully aside and standing by the fireplace. “It’s my place and you are never to enter. Do you understand?” His eyes flashed with a sudden fury and Sascha cowered.

“Of course, My Lord,” she replied, her eyes cast downward. “I will respect your wishes.”

He looked down at her, trying to smile reassuringly. “Of course you will.” The clock on the other side of the room struck the hour and Sascha yawned. “We should get you into bed lest you be exhausted in the morning.”

“And what should I expect in the morning?” she asked, allowing him to help her to her feet and lead her toward the bed. “Shall I report to the kitchens or the stables?”

He looked puzzled. “Neither.” He pulled back the covers and gestured for her to climb into the bed.

She obeyed and continued. “Well… I was sent here as your slave. But looking around me and the clothes given for me to wear, I just can’t figure what my duties should be.”

“To do whatever I require,” he answered simply, tucking the coverlet around her body. “And right now I require that you sleep.” He turned to leave, but was stopped with her hand on his arm.

“Couldn’t you just stay with me, My Lord?”

He raised his eyebrow. “Of course not. It wouldn’t be appropriate…”

“Please,” she pleaded. “Just until I’ve gone to sleep.” Her eyes looked past him to the window where the wind and rain still pounded at the stone walls. “Storms frighten me so.”

He sighed, defeated by her eyes again. He looked around and pulled a chair from the other side of the room to her bedside and sat down. “It seems that of the two of us, I am more slave to you.”

NEW RELEASE: Olde School by Selah Janel

olde school picDo you like fairy tales?  I’m a huge fan and therefore SO excited for my next featured release to go live.  Olde School is the new book by my very good friend, Selah Janel.  It’s an incredible fantasy that mixes fairy tales, humor and a diner from Hell.  Not to mention a kickass heroine.  I’ve already started reading and I can tell you– you will NOT be disappointed!  Check it out…

BLURB TIME!!

Olde School introduces you to Kingdom City, which has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs than cause trouble. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they’re just fodder for the next movie franchise. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic. It’s all old superstition and harmless tradition.

Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Paddlelump Stonemonger is quickly coming to wish he’d never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it’s also brought him unwanted attention from the Lord Mayor. Adding to his frustration, Padd’s oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. When a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest, he doesn’t think much of it. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he’ll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.

Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap’s diner. It’s enough to make the troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Olde-School-Kingdom-City-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00J4UGVIM

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/olde-school-selah-janel/1118944108?ean=2940149568864